The following originally appeared on Food Digital on October 8, 2012:
Islay’s oldest distillery rests on the rocky banks of Loch Indaal (a sea loch that opens to the North Channel, also known as the Straits of Moyle, with the Atlantic ocean west of that). The loch’s salty waves crash against the walls of the distillery while a thick brininess fills the air. It’s a special place with a special history and is worth a visit if you have any interest in whisky.
Highlighting just how special this history is, the Bowmore distillery has recently released an expression distilled in 1957. Think about that for a second: Eisenhower was President of the USA; Nixon was Vice-President; the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers agreed to move the team to California; and Elvis bought Graceland for $100,000. And on a small island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides a distiller collected some new make spirit in a cask and stored it in a warehouse that would be bashed by the sea loch’s waves for fifty four years.
Bowmore hasn’t taken the release of their oldest whisky lightly. They enlisted the services of three world class artisans to produce each bottle, the engraved platinum neck collar that adorns each bottle, and the presentation box. The bottle is hand blown and sculpted by Brodie Nairn and Nicola Burns and features glass waves crashing against the side of the bottle, the platinum collar is hand engraved by Hamilton & Inches, while famed woodworker, Peter Toaig, crafted the box from Scottish oak. The presentation is worthy of the spirit that it holds.
Each of the twelve bottles released is priced at £100,000 or approximately $160,000. Bottles #1 and #2 will be sold at auction this month with net proceeds from the sales being divided among five Scottish charities. The first auction will be this Wednesday, October 8, at Bonhams in Edinburgh. The second will be at Bonhams in New York City on October 28. It will be interesting to see what collectors pay for such incredibly rare Bowmore.
I wish this was the portion of the proceedings where I present my tasting notes but unfortunately I don’t think a small sip from any of the twelve bottles in existence will be wetting my lips. So, from the distillery:
“After distillation, the new spirit was placed into a second fill sherry cask (where it spent 43 years) and then, in 2000, was moved into a second fill bourbon cask. At first breath…blueberries and wild figs with mellow almonds, tropical fruit and rich oaky overtones hits the nose. The palate reveals…sweet and refined ocean tastes with soft blueberries, cassis and figs, sea salt and fresh eucalyptus. Next, a wisp of teasing smoke and traces of dark chocolate fuse with notes of grapefruit and juicy oak, carried along by a warming marine breeze. This sensory journey ends with a long and whispering finish of cassis, bergamot and star anise.”
A delicious dram, to be sure, that’s now worth more than the mansion Elvis purchased the year it was distilled!